The Inuit of the Arctic, living in one of the least hospitable environments on earth, are an intensely resourceful people. They mostly eat local wildlife, such as caribou, musk oxen, polar bears, seals, whales, walruses and various types of fish. The Inuit require extra calories to keep them warm and active, and these local foods provide them with essential oils and nutrients that food imported from the south lacks. They also value maintaining the traditional ways of life of their ancestors, including hunting and fishing. Yet their food is also exposing them to toxic chemicals - persistent organic pollutants (POPs) - brought on the winds from countries far away.

These dangerous chemicals take a long time to break down and so build up in the food chain, working their way up into animals that people eat. POPs weaken the body's immune system, disrupt hormonal systems, and may cause cancer and other diseases. Inuit people have been found to have 10-20 times higher levels of POPs than people in more temperate areas. In response to this growing threat to their community's health, the Inuit people played an important part in ensuring the agreement of an international treaty, the Stockholm Convention, which was brokered by UNEP and which plans to phase out use of 12 of the most dangerous POPs.

 

Global distillation: how POPs migrate

1/   chemicals get into the atmospheric circulation cycle at lower latitudes where there is more pollution
2/   these toxins stay in the circulation currents for a long time and eventually travel northward
3/   toxins finally settle out of the atmosphere onto the polar ice caps
 
         
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